Red Flag-Alaska Simulates Actual Conditions
Surface-to-air "threats" are frequent at Red Flag-Alaska 06-2,
as aircrews try to slip past simulated, enemy ground fire during
the exercise that began at Eielson AFB April 24.
The challenge helps aircrews practice their warfighting skills
over the Pacific-Alaska Range. There are Airmen from some 20 Air
Force active duty, Reserve and National Guard units participating
in the exercise.
In the exercise scenarios, friendly air forces fight hostile
forces while attacking pre-designated targets. During the missions,
the attacking aircraft can be locked on by simulated surface-to-air
missiles. These ground threats are controlled by the civilian
employees of Arctic Slope World Services.
ASWS employees use radar strategically positioned throughout the
bomb range and Global Positioning System software to track and
watch the aircraft.
Cameras are strapped to
radars all over the range, sometimes as much as four miles from the
"Hopefully we can get a radar lock on the plane and the camera
will follow it. If not, we do it manually," said Carl Thompson,
ASWS lead technician of video systems. "We have nine people working
here capable of providing any number of threat scenarios all for
the purpose of training the pilots."
The road to a target is never a clear one with the arsenal of
threats available to technicians from the unmanned threat emitters
With more than 29 manned and unmanned threats at their
fingertips, technicians create a hostile environment using
joysticks and computers. They ensure pilots receive both aggressive
and defensive simulated combat experiences at a pressure-building
pace, whether they’re bombing a target, evading missiles and
ground fire or supporting ground troops.
"It’s all electronically simulated. The pilots can tell
what’s coming at them by the different sounds in their
headsets and the signals in their cockpit displays," said Buck
Buchanan, an unmanned threat emitter technician.
"The bottom line is we train pilots by throwing missiles at
them. If the plane has air combat maneuvering instrumentation pods,
then the tracking is all electronic. If not, we watch them do their
evasive maneuvers on camera," Mr. Buchanan said.
If the pilot is successful and reaches the target, the
aircrew’s attack can be graded. The same people "attacking"
the aircraft now use their technology to enhance aircrew
debriefings by measuring and recording aircrew effectiveness in
hitting the target.
"Planes drop dummy munitions with a smoke charge, a camera
records it and I can see it in real time on my computer screen. I
put the cursor on it and the computer tells me how close it is to
the target. Hitting within five meters (of the target) is
considered a hit," Mr. Thompson said.
It takes advanced
monitoring systems to capture the dogfights and bombings on
"When you’re talking about the good guys from the bad
guy’s perspective, we’re the ones who know how well the
good guys did," said Mr. Thompson. "On the tactical ranges (pilots)
fight past our sites, find a specific target, put a bomb on it and
fight their way out. Then we get to score it."
Once they’ve dropped their ordnance, pilots must still
make it back past the enemy threats to home base without getting
"When fighters are engaged in a dog fight, the entire operation
can be recorded in real time," said Monty Harding, lead ASWS
technician. "Everything feeds into our server."
"We gather information from 14 different computers in this one
little area. That’s the amount of technology that’s
come together to make this work," Mr. Buchanan said.
A three- to five-minute tape is later compiled for the
When all is said and done, pilots and navigators alike get to
review and learn from their performances. Learning those lessons
here saves them from learning them in a real combat environment,
and sharpens their skills so they can fight another day.
(Aero-News Salutes Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey S. Walston, Red
Flag-Alaska 06-2 Public Affairs, and Capt. Aaron Wiley, Red
Flag-Alaska Public Affairs)